Opportunities for a stay in France (FGYO)

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Anyone who wants to spend some time in France during their studies has various different possibilities to choose from. A lot of partnerships and cooperations exist with our neighbouring country – great opportunities for cultural, social or professional exchanges. One possible organisation which offers advice and assistance to anyone interested in exchange programmes with France is the “Franco-German Youth Office” (FGYO/DFJW).

Marie Kösters, Young Ambassador of the FGYO, gives an overview about the offers of the organisation.

The Young Ambassadors of the FGYO - mostly former participants of exchange activities, now still studying or just having begun to work - are the people to contact in the individual “Bundesländer” and “régions”. Apart from the Young Ambassador, you can also retrieve a list of regional partner organisations via an interactive map on the FGYO’s website.

Possibilities for a stay in France

Staying abroad in France as a student also needs to be financed. What possibilities regarding financial support does the FGYO offer?

The FGYO offers various types of financial support for staying abroad in France. For certain fields, it is possible to apply for mobility support for spending a semester abroad or for participating in projects. In addition, you can apply for financial support for a voluntary international internship, which is granted if there is special need for it. With a lot of other mobility programmes, the FGYO also offers further training possibilities, seminars or workshops as an additional support for students, for example in the case of a one-year voluntary service or with programmes offered by the partner organisations.

For students who want to take advantage of further financial support, the programmes of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) might be a good opportunity. There you can, among other things, apply for scholarships for international internships or for studying abroad.
Furthermore, with the “Erasmus +” programmes, the EU does no longer only support semesters abroad but also endeavours to financially support international internships or professional training abroad. In this case, the people in charge of Erasmus at the universities are the right people to turn to.

Where can I get advice regarding these programmes?

A very detailed overview to all the programmes of the FGYO including the individual people in charge can be found on their website. The people responsible for the programmes speak German and French and can be contacted anytime should there be any questions.

What question should I ask myself in order to find out which exchange programme would suit me?

When choosing a suitable type of experience, one consideration should be whether the stay is intended to be about further professional education, such as an internship, or in particular about gaining intercultural experience. Of course, you cannot always clearly differentiate between these types of experience, but especially when going through a period of reorientation an intercultural experience, for example, can be very rewarding and leave a deep impression.

It is also important to think about the duration of the desired programme. There are different options available, from encounters that last one or more days to a one-year stay. In this context, you should also get some information about the time necessary for planning it. In most cases, the scholarships connected to the programmes of the FGYO require an application within the stipulated period as well as the handing in of certain documents. The FGYO also always makes the effort to provide information regarding everyday life in France in order to help get your bearings when you have arrived.

Is it recommended during the pandemic to participate in a French exchange programme at all?

The corona pandemic presents a great challenge for the world of international mobility. The essential concept of intercultural exchange, meeting new people in an unknown environment, was made impossible within merely a few days not only regarding national borders but also inside Germany and France. Especially with regard to these developments and also the increase in nationalist tendencies it is important to promote openness and a sense of community through cultural exchange. One of the most striking experiences for a person in 2020 was to stand at Gare du Nord at Paris on a Sunday evening in March, having a train ticket to Germany and knowing that the French border would be shut down behind them for a period unknown. Many students are also on their own in the current situation and have to cope with pressure and fear of the future. Meeting other young adults, also outside your studies, can be very strengthening in this situation.

Fortunately, the endeavours of the FGYO to relocate meetings into the digital world were successful relatively quickly. This was however also accompanied by several challenges, such as providing simultaneous interpreting. In the meantime, a lot of further training and education as well as large conferences and seminars can be held online without encountering problems or substantial language barriers. We, the Young Ambassadors, are very active organizing online meetings and events in the social networks of the FGYO. To some extent, also personal encounters were possible, depending on the numbers of infections and regional regulations. Appropriate hygiene concepts were devised in time for these projects.

Before you decide on a stay in France, however, you definitely should get information on the corona regulations there or, if you have any questions regarding specific support programmes, turn to the people responsible in the FGYO.

What does the FGYO offer in the line of jobs and internships in France?

The programme “Job in der Partnerstadt” [Eng. job in the twin city] is especially suitable for beginning your professional career. It enables receiving interdisciplinary support with internships or jobs in the French twin city. Also, the programme “Arbeit beim Partner” [Eng. working with the partner] offers special support for working in youth organizations in the partner country. The German-French voluntary service enables a 10 to 12-month voluntary service in the field of universities/schools, or in the fields culture, ecology, sports and social work.

A further area of support for people about to start their professional career would be the individual scholarships in the fields of arts and culture. Young literary translators can, for example, gain some insight into the German-French world of publishing via the Georges-Arthur-Goldschmidt-Programm. Also young journalists and artist can receive support in the German-French context.

The FGYO furthermore provides financial support for creative projects and innovative concepts via the “1234-Projects”. This support can be given to individual people or groups who want to commit themselves to a German-French project and require financial support. At the moment, the FGYO also in particular focuses on projects in the fields of environmental protection and sustainability.

Erasmus is a well-known exchange programme for students. What further possibilities for an exchange exist that could be interesting for students?

Other than the well-known Erasmus support for studying abroad, the FGYO offers a broad variety of opportunities for receiving support, which in most cases are available independent of a university education. This variety offers individual and exciting projects and experiences for practically any student.

Apart from cultural and everyday customs, staying abroad can extend your professional skills. For young adults between 18 and 30 years of age, the FGYO for instance offers scholarships for participating in international internships in France. Every internship in France requires an internship agreement, which is usually provided by educational institutions. This in particular poses a problem when an internship is to be done before beginning your studies, between two courses of studies or as a voluntary internship and therefore the German university cannot provide the document. For this reason, the FGYO provides this document via its programme PRAXES for internships lasting between one and six months.

Also mandatory internships in France lasting between one and three months, which are recognized by the German home university as part of a Bachelor’s programme, can be supported by the FGYO by means of a scholarship.

Additionally, the FGYO offers students studying in the field of education further training possibilities. Via the programme mobiklasse.de, young teachers between 20 and 30 years of age go on a 10-month tour of schools in the whole of France, motivating pupils to learn German.

Every year, the Franco-German Youth Office (FGYO) approximately supports 190,000 adolescents and young adults from Germany, France or in trilateral programmes also from other countries, with exchange opportunities. The 8,000 individual and group meetings every year offer an opportunity for everyone to enhance one’s language skills as well as to experience oneself and living together in Europe from a different perspective.

More information on the FGYO: www.fgyo.org